Open Computer Testing

I am not a lover of tests and exams as those who regularly read this blog will know. If there have to be tests though I feel that an idea that I have read about over the weekend, is a really good one.

I I found a link on Google Plus (the place where many of my most valuable links come from these days) to a post from Will Richardson called “Open Network”  Tests.

The idea behind all of this is to let students explore the internet in order to answer test questions on a topic. This approach has been pioneered at  St. Gregory  Preparatory College, in Tucson, Arizona.

I looked up a post by Jonathan Martin from the College. In the post there is a description of how this “Open Internet” Testing approach works in the Theatre  History Class.

Here are the questions that the students has to choose from:

  1. Compare and contrast the tragedy and comedy of Ancient Greece using examples of playwrights and plays.
  2. Chronologically identify and compare and contrast the three main tragedians, identify their backgrounds, contributions to theater history, and plays.
  3. Explain Aristotle’s 6 elements of tragedy, how they worked at the time of conception and how they might work in today’s entertainments, give examples.
  4. Identify and define two important performance festivals of Ancient Greece and compare and contrast them with two important performance festivals of today.
  5. Identify the origins of theater and drama in Greece.
  6. Explain what the Greek chorus was, who was involved, what they did, how they functioned,  and how did they affect plays of the time.

Here is some of the feedback from the students on their experience of taking the test:

“I liked how it made us understand the topic  more.  I also found it harder than multiple choice because you had to analyze rather than know the info.

I really enjoyed the format of the test, where I could use open notes and write an essay on a certain topic. It was very helpful, and I felt as if I had a lot of more information than I would have had if I had just memorized the information.

I thought that this format was very effective, because this way its not so cut and dry right answer wrong answer, it’s more opinionated, which I like much more.

I liked the format of the test. I liked the way we got to look online for facts about a certain topic, then write an essay about it.

This test does not have multiple choice or terms that we had to define. This is more about testing your ability to find resources that you need, write a quality essay under pressure. I find I like the multiple choice and defining terms better.

This feedback shows just how much the students appreciated the fact that they could show how much they knew, how good their research skills were and then how they could present the information in a way that is an effective answer to the questions set.

It does not introduce the element of luck and chance in a multiple choice test and it does not mean that they are reliant on their memory in order to remember the key facts that an examiner is looking for.

For those of us who have always struggled with tests and exams because we did not have a brilliant memory and suffered from the tension and stress of trying to answer a number of questions in a set period of time, this new approach seems to be light years ahead and would have made a significant difference to our academic success.”

I can only hope that more schools will learn from the St. Greg’s lead and allow students to use 21st century research skills to show what they know and what they can find out and present this in a way that allows us to see what they are capable of and not what they can remember and tell us about in a stressed period of time!

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